The History of Burning Man

Tens of thousands of free-spirited revelers (and tech bros) are making the trek to Burning Man this weekend. Here's how the festival has changed since its inception.

Burning Man Controversy

8 nights, 10 principles, tens of thousands of attendees. Burning Man is an annual event held in Black Rock Desert in Nevada. It was started in 1986 by Larry Harvey, John Law, Jerry James — three friends who built the first "Man." The 10 principles of Burning Man were written by co-founder Harvey in 2004. They include radical self-expression, radical self-reliance, communal effort. Some of the technology elite who have attended Burning Man: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin.

But in recent years, Silicon Valley’s elite have been accused of ruining Burning Man. Bloomberg reported anyone that paid for the camp, they had to pay about $16,500 for the week. Reno’s KTVN interviewed artists from the festival about the change. In 2019, organizers decided to make changes to “support economic diversity” and reduce “convenience culture” according the Burning Man Journal. In principle the annual Burning Man festival sounds a bit like a socialist utopia: bring thousands of people to an empty desert to create an alternative society. Ban money and advertisements and make it a gift economy. Encourage members to bring the necessary ingredients of this new world with them, according to their ability. he weeklong

Burning Man festival takes place once a year over Labor Day weekend in a remote alkali flat in northwestern Nevada. Two hours north of Reno, the inhospitable Black Rock Desert seems a poor place to create a temporary sixty-thousand-person city — and yet that’s entirely the point. On the desert playa, an alien world is created and then dismantled within the span of a month. The festival culminates with the deliberate burning of a symbolic effigy, the titular “man,” a wooden sculpture around a hundred feet tall. Burning Man will be remembered more as the model for Google CEO Larry Page’s dream of a libertarian state, than as the revolutionary Situationist space that it could have been.